The Jazz Age Essay

The Jazz Age Essay-71
In a way, they were precursors of Johnson’s leading disciple, Fats Waller, who had an extensive classical background and could keep a party going all night with his improvisational flights of genius, synthesizing the varied elements into his next composition. 1925; Designed by Lina de Andrada (French, active 1920s); Manufactured by Paul Dumas (Paris, France); Screen-printed cotton; H x W: 102 x 75 cm (40  x 29 ½ in.); Gift of Mrs.Germaine Little; 1968-110-98 The innovative African American jazz musicians in Harlem took great joy in combining their own musical discoveries with elements from Africa, Cuba, South America, and Europe.By the late 1890s, it brought the ragtime of African American composer Scott Joplin into the American home.

In a way, they were precursors of Johnson’s leading disciple, Fats Waller, who had an extensive classical background and could keep a party going all night with his improvisational flights of genius, synthesizing the varied elements into his next composition. 1925; Designed by Lina de Andrada (French, active 1920s); Manufactured by Paul Dumas (Paris, France); Screen-printed cotton; H x W: 102 x 75 cm (40  x 29 ½ in.); Gift of Mrs.Germaine Little; 1968-110-98 The innovative African American jazz musicians in Harlem took great joy in combining their own musical discoveries with elements from Africa, Cuba, South America, and Europe.By the late 1890s, it brought the ragtime of African American composer Scott Joplin into the American home.

The piano was the tool of innovation for the past, present, and future of music, with Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Liszt, Louis Moreau Gottschalk, Scott Joplin, and eventually Harlemites James P.

Johnson, Thomas “Fats” Waller, and later Edward “Duke” Ellington using the instrument to advance their art and share their genius.

This process helped spawn a new lilting rhythm known as swing, which, as Ellington characteristically put it, “encouraged the terpsichorean urge.” At dance venues like the Savoy Ballroom—with its marble staircase, mirrored walls, cut-glass chandeliers, and block-long dance floor with bookending bandstands—Harlem musicians were not alone in bending their creations into abstraction and avant-garde thinking.

Designers, authors, painters, architects, and socially progressive thinkers gathered at the Savoy and in similar social settings the world over, unencumbered by the segregation of the era, with jazz as the soundtrack.

You simply purchased a recording to play on your elegant Victor Talking Machine.

What was once music that existed only in the ether—largely improvised, heard live, once, and then never the same way again—was now available over the airwaves and reproducible through the grooves of a record.Big bands were filling dance halls with Lindy Hoppers, and jazz reached around the world, initially embraced by the youth and the creative classes, who in many cases were also engaging in the worlds of art and design.Ellington was broadcasting live from the Cotton Club, social mores were being broken left and right, and women were exploring a new social independence with their right to vote, even as the world struggled to deal with the crippling effects of the Great Depression.The baby grand is white with lovely hand-carved wooden filigree adorning its sides and music rack, but in truth, if seen outside of a museum, it would be considered simply a piano.The player piano, on the other hand, is a feat of engineering, with dozens of moving parts for each of its eighty-eight keys—it was the first technology that allowed “recorded” music, in the form of a piano roll, to be distributed for in-home enjoyment.These developments in technology and industrial design forever altered the significance of the piano in the home.In 1919, 336,000 pianos were sold in the United States—only 130,000 were sold ten years later in 1929.Fashion also underwent a similar infusion of modernity, with the introduction of highly stylized forms of dress; as one elder Harlemite shared with us, “you didn’t go out unless you were dressed to impress.” It is easy to glamorize this rich period of cultural expression, but it is important to also understand that even in Harlem, segregation and racism were still very much a part of everyday life for African Americans.Though uptown nightlife revolved around nightclubs and speakeasies, most of these establishments were segregated (including the iconic Cotton Club), with only a few integrated venues available, such as the Savoy Ballroom and Smalls Paradise.The piano was a point of pride, a place where the family gathered to sing, dance, and entertain.The presence of a piano also promoted music literacy, and piano lessons were considered a rite of passage for children even then.

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